9.13.2015

"White God" Movie Review

I have been waiting with bated breath for six months to see Kornel Mundruczo's "White God."  You don't have to be a dog-lover to appreciate the powerful and hair-raising sight that is two hundred dogs sprinting through the streets of Hungary.  And the best part is that not a shred of CGI was used to achieve this scene.  It was the sight of this army of dogs, which I viewed in the trailer in March 2015, that intrigued me.  Knowing full well that these well-trained (and extremely photogenic, I might add) dogs were most likely part of thinly veiled political commentary, I settled in for the wait for this story to come to Netflix.

It turns out that the wait is only beginning when you click "play" on "White God."  If you've seen the trailer, you can deduce that a young girl's father forces her to give up her beloved dog, Hagen, who is a mutt, and therefore requires a fee and registration.  Mutts are clearly frowned upon and "less-than."  Hagen then tries to make his journey home, picking up several comrades along the way.  This is no "Homeward Bound," however, as the audience has to sit through about 100 minutes of grimace-inducing verbal abuse of children, dog fights, and generally depressing depictions of the animal control system in this fictional tale of Budapest, Hungary.


Hungary, like many European countries, is in the midst of a migrant crisis, with no place for the influx of people to go.  This paired with rampant racism makes for a volatile situation for people of varied ethnic backgrounds entering a new country.  It is not hard to see the commentary "White God" is trying to make about the marginalizing of races that are "other" and foreign, especially when the film features characters that spout racist slurs and families looking to adopt a dog that are directed away from making the choice of a mutt toward adopting a "more desirable" dog.

I do not say that "White God" is not a worthy piece of satire.  I say only that it takes its sweet time to get some momentum going, and subjects its audience to gruesome images, not the least of which depict the despicable practice of dog fighting, in order to get to that glorious ending.  And it is glorious.  If you can handle a handful of rough scenes of violence (remember, it's all staged - no animals were harmed in the making of this movie), then the ending will move you, I promise.

"White God" was the winner of the Un Certain Regard award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and features dogs trained by Ann Miller, the animal trainer behind "Babe" and "Beethoven."

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